Romancing Kauai – The Garden Island

Landing in Kauai, you are immediately transported to a different place and time – where everyone takes their time to appreciate and live the beauty that surrounds. Lush vegetation, unique bays and first class accommodations make Kauai an ideal romantic vacation for weddings, honeymoon and anniversaries.  Trust us when we say that you will not disappoint your significant other.

We arrive at The Grand Hyatt where we will be staying for two nights.  The Grand Hyatt is a beautiful beachside resort with stunning views and incredibly gorgeous beach, and is in in great proximity to most everything.   As soon as we arrived, we were greeted by the friendly and smiling staff who welcomed us.  Jacob, who checked us in at the reception was warm, friendly and very helpful. 

Our rooms were not ready when we arrived, so we arranged for a couple’s massage at the Anara Spa.  Anara spa incorporates traditional healing customs to inspire unity, harmony and balance.  Ancient Hawaiians believe in an intimate relationship with nature and the intuitive healing practices to care for mind, body, and spirit as one. Amidst lush tropical gardens and cascading waterfalls, the spa is very welcoming and relaxing at once.  The spa attendant brought us to a private hale (hut) to wait for our therapists.  My husband and myself got an invigorating and relaxing massage in a private setting, – tip – after a long plane ride it really is very helpful and refreshing to get a massage to officially start your vacation!  After the massage, we enjoyed the soaking tub and the private lava rocks showers.

Next we headed over to the pool area and got some drinks and food at Hale Nule where we got some light refreshments and of course, the obligatory mai tais.  For the first night, we decided to do room service as we were exhausted and called it an early night as we knew we’d be waking up early the next morning.

The following morning, we were off to Capt. Andy’s Sailing and Raft Expeditions, the 5 to 5 ½ hours trip was truly enjoyable as you marvel at the magnificence of Na pali Coastlines, amazing waterfalls and breathtaking sceneries.  We anchored at a tropical reef and went snorkeling.  Refreshments were also provided as well as unlimited (alcohol included) drinks.  The crew were super friendly and very knowledgeable of the scenic wonders.  We also lucked out in spotting a school of Dolphins enjoying the sea and frolicking with each other.

For dinner, we headed to the Grand Hyatt’s feature restaurant: Tidepools.  Thatched-roof bungalows that float above a koi-filled lagoon at the base of a waterfall create an intimate and romantic ambiance.  We were told that the majority of the patrons that night is celebrating special occasions and we can totally understand why they chose to spend it there.  The food is Inspired by local ingredients and the culinary traditions of Hawaii and of course was superb – but we do recommend that you save room for some amazing dessert. 

The next morning, we had breakfast at Ilima Terrace, this casual restaurant with beautiful views, high ceiling and open air terraces is quite spectacular.  Ilima Terrace serves a buffet breakfast and everything was enjoyable especially with the fresh fruits and incredibly friendly staff.

After breakfast, we were off the explore the Kilohana Plantation Railway.  We started off with a tour of the mansion of sugar baron Gaylord Wilcox, who built this beautiful 16,000 square foot plantation estate.  The mansion was renovated in 1983 after hurricane Iwa damaged it.  Hawaiian artifacts are proudly showcased alongside rare artwork from the orient and Pacific Kingdom.  After the tour, we went on a 40 minute train ride of the ranch which was fun and educational.  You will be entertained as the conductors showcases rows of over 50 varieties of fruit tree orchards, vegetable gardens and most important of all, animal pastures with donkeys, goats, sheep, horses, cattle, ducks, geese and herd of wild pigs.  The train will stop and offer you bread to give to the animals – being an animal lover, I was so happy to interact with these animals and when the train finally was leaving, one of the pigs decided to run after us hoping for more food – it was so cute – beyond words.

After the train ride, we explored the shops and went to a tasting at the Koloa Rum Company – the award winning Koloa Rum are distilled in vintage copper pot using Hawaiian cane sugar, pure mountain water and the Aloha spirit of Kauai.  Our host talked us through the history of Koloa Rum while making sure that we are all having fun. The rum did not disappoint.  We tasted all their rums – and each one is an award winner – so we had to stop by the gift shop to purchase some as it was too good not to share with friends.

For lunch, we decided to try the food truck scene in Kauai -  a local parking lot with a permanent food truck presence.  Al Pastor Tacos Food Truck  and the food did not disappoint, it was delicious – I had to reorder my grilled ahi as I needed a second serving.  For dessert, we tried the local favorite – Tege Tege Shaved Ice – and wow - highly recommended and really enjoyable to the last drop. 

Our next destination was St. Regis in Princeville located in the northern coast of the island of Kauai.   Upon entering the lobby you are immediately awestruck at the beauty and elegance of the hotel with spectacular views overlooking Hanalei Bay.  It’s hard to describe just how breathtaking the sights are here.  The rooms are beautifully appointed with their own amazing views.  As soon as we got settled in, we decided to check out the pool and beach area.  The St. Regis comprises three cliff-side structures cascading down to the beach, adhering to Kauai’ strict rule that no single structure can be taller than a coconut tree or approximately four stories.  The way the bay is structured, most of the sounds from the ocean go up, so the waves are much louder up in your room than they are down the beach.

Whether it’s from the beach, from your room or from the balcony off the main lobby, the highlights of the St. Regis is the impossible majestic view of five mountains surrounding the bay, home to waterfalls, rainbows, wisps of clouds, fresh sweet air and a sense that this must be what paradise is like. 

For our next activity, we headed to do the Sunset Golf Club Tour in the neighboring Princeville Makai Golf Club – The Makai course winds its way around serene lakes, woodlands and amazing coastlines with views of Bali Hai and Hanalei Bay.  The 18-hole golf cart tour takes place during late afternoon just before the setting sun – and to commune and appreciate the wonder that nature has to offer – this truly is the best way to enjoy the North Shore splendor.

For dinner, we went to the Kauai Grill at St. Regis – a Jean Georges restaurant with a menu consisting of internationally influenced cuisine utilizing the freshest fist and ingredients indigenous to the islands.  The dinner was definitely something to write home about, from the succulent Hamachi appetizers to the grilled ahi tuna to the decadent desserts.

The next morning, we decided to have breakfast at Makana Terrace for a breakfast buffet overlooking the same awesome views.  The food was as fresh and delicious as we expected.  After walking around the beautiful property, it was time for our massage at the Hale’a Spa where we both had a wonderful treatment at the 10,000 square foot facility where wellness consultants can design an individualized spa program for body and mind inspired by native Hawaiian healing rituals.

Each evening at Sunset, the St Regis bar has a tradition that is a must experience – the art of Champagne Sabering to celebrate the transition of the work day to a relaxed night against the backdrop of the setting sun.  Guests watch their host use sables to remove the foil, the wire basket around the cork and the cork itself, all at the same time.

We then proceeded to a dinner hosted by the Director of Sales and Marketing, Donald Chock (thank you!).  Not only was the meal superb and scrumptious but the conversation was also fun and full of laughter.  Don told us stories growing up in Hawaii and the history of St. Regis  at the same time, bantering with the servers – all for a very entertaining evening.  For dessert, Don offered two of their wedding cakes and they were so beautiful that you almost didn’t even want to touch them.  But then you try a piece and all bets are off - it was creamy, moist and not too sweet – in short, delicious and I had to sneak out a piece for my midnight snack.

The next morning, we were off the Kipu Ranch for an ATV Waterfall Picnic Tour – once we checked in – each couple was given an ATV to drive.  The sights on the tour are truly wondrous and the trails were fun and easy to navigate.  The Indiana Jones swing was cool especially to those who are not afraid to embarrass themselves and tried it for themselves.  The guides were super friendly, knowledgeable of the area and really fun to hang out with.  The tour lasted for 3 hours but it all went fast as there is so much to see and wonder.  The waterfall spot was definitely worth the short hike after which a deli style picnic was served in a pavilion.  This adventure is definitely recommend.

For our final night, we checked into the Ko’a Kea Hotel and Resort at Poipu Beach – an exceptional boutique oceanfront hotel offers that offers beautiful and romantic accommodation - peaceful, serene, amazing surroundings, luxurious and stylish rooms – and above all, excellent staff.  Since we mentioned that we are celebrating an anniversary – we were greeted by this wonderful heart shaped swan in our room with rose pedals scattered everywhere.  It was amazing!

For dinner, we dined at their award winning Red Salt restaurant and we can honestly say that this would be worth your time as the Chef is amazing.   Red Salt features contemporary upscale cuisine with creative blends of fresh, local ingredients from the island.  The appetizers were perfectly delicious and the entrees were top notch – I really enjoyed the spiced Seared Ahi and my husband decided to try the $50 burger (wagyu beef, foie gras, bacon, onions, cheddar and lobster) and it was amazing and served with truffle fries with gold aioli!  They also have an extensive wine list for pairing.

The next morning, it was time to say good bye to this island paradise that I hope to visit again in the very near future.  One of the things that really stood out – aside from the wonderful hotels and excursions we did - was the people that make this place truly magical.  Everyone smiling and happy – this is what life should be.